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Summary This category covers the main topics that have been the focus of the free will debate and over which compatibilists and determinists have argued. Topics like determinism and God's foreknowledge have been central to the debate, insofar as they raise parallel (apparent) challenges to our capacity to exercise free will. Moral responsibility is held by many to be at stake in the free will debate and it too been at the focus of attention. Fatalism, especially logical fatalism, is no longer central but there is a rich literature from earlier centuries much of which addressed issues related to those which remain central. Debate over whether free will requires alternative possibilities has always been lively: the advent of Frankfurt-style cases has given this debate new life for the past 4 decades.
Key works For a lively and penetrating selection of recent work on foreknowledge, see Fischer 1989Sobel 1998 is a central text on a range of problems to do with fatalims and determinism. Earman 1993 contains important work on determinism.Debate over alternative possibilities was revitalized by Frankfurt 1969Widerker & McKenna 2003 collects representative papers from among the very many on this increasingly complex debate.
Introductions Zagzebski 2002;Rice 2008; Earman 2004; Fischer 2002
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  1. FISCHER, LOUIS. Men and Politics.D. S. von Mohrenschildt - 1941 - Journal of Social Philosophy and Jurisprudence 7:89.
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  2. [Erasmus' Response to Luther's Defence of Scriptural Passages Opposing Free Will.DesideriusHG Erasmus - 2000 - In Controversies: Hyperaspistes 2. University of Toronto Press. pp. 446-566.
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  3. Freewill in the Modern World.Edward Quinn - 1940 - New Blackfriars 21 (245):459-464.
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  4. On Some Contrasts Due to Defects Close to a Free Surface.C. Colliex, B. Jouffrey & D. Taupin - 1969 - Philosophical Magazine 19 (160):673-687.
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  5. Al-Òhurråiyah Al-Insåanåiyah °Inda Al-Shåi°Ah Al-Ithn'a °Ashråiyah Fåi °Aòsr Al-Ta®Såis.Munâa Aòhmad Muòhammad Abåu Zayd - 2000
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  6. Persons the Strawsonian Tradition.Seth Barber - 1995
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  7. On Frankfurt's Explanation of Respect for People.Sarah Buss & Lee Overton (eds.) - 2002 - MIT Press.
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Alternative Possibilities
  1. Free Will, Determinism, and the Right Levels of Description.Leonhard Menges - forthcoming - Philosophical Explorations 1:1-18.
    Recently, many authors have argued that claims about determinism and free will are situated on different levels of description and that determinism on one level does not rule out free will on another. This paper focuses on Christian List’s version of this basic idea. It will be argued for the negative thesis that List’s account does not rule out the most plausible version of incompatibilism about free will and determinism and, more constructively, that a level-based approach to free will has (...)
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  2. Actual Sequences, Frankfurt-Cases, and Non-Accidentality.Heering David - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    There are two tenets about free agency that have proven difficult to combine: (i) free agency is grounded in an agent’s possession or exercise of their reasons-responsiveness, (ii) only actual sequence features (not alternative possibilities) can ground free agency (conclusion of Frankfurt-Cases). This paper argues that (i) and (ii) can only be reconciled if we recognise that their clash is just the particular manifestation of a wider conflict between two approaches to the notion of non-accidentality. According to modalism, p is (...)
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  3. A Problem for Frankfurt Examples.Samuel J. M. Kahn - 2021 - Southwest Philosophy Review 37 (1):159-167.
    In this paper I intend to raise a problem for so-called Frankfurt examples. I begin by describing the examples and what they are used for. Then I describe the problem.
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  4. Why Frankfurtian All-in Can’Ts Are Irrelevant to Free Will.Keil Geert - 2021 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 64.
    This paper argues that Frankfurt-style counterexamples (FSCs) do not compromise the agent’s ability to decide otherwise. In his attack on the Principle of Alternative Possibilities, Frankfurt relied on what Austin called the ‘all-in’ sense of ‘can’, and misconstrued the agent’s inability to do otherwise as an all-in can’t. Like the new dispositionalists, I maintain that the agent’s relevant abilities are ‘masked’ rather than lost in Frankfurt cases. The argument from masked abilities, however, is not confined to a compatibilist construal of (...)
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  5. Agentive und andere Fähigkeiten: Bemerkungen zu Agents' Abilities von Romy Jaster.David Löwenstein - 2020 - Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung 74 (3):448-453.
    Agents' Abilities ist ein Geschenk von einem Buch, das man nicht genug loben kann. Und deswegen versuche ich es erst gar nicht. Stattdessen beschränke ich mich auf einige konstruktiv-kritische Bemerkungen, die in zwei miteinander verbundenen Bereichen Perspektiven der Weiterentwicklung und Verfeinerung aufzeigen sollen.
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  6. A Fundamental Failure of Frankfurt’s Agentic Counterfactual Intervention: No Agency.Joseph de la Torre Dwyer - 2020 - Philosophia 49 (2):633-642.
    Frankfurt’s “Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility” made an important intervention into the literature on moral responsibility via a classical Frankfurt-type example, arguing that “the principle of alternate possibilities” is false. This paper argues that classical Frankfurt-type examples fail due to the use of agentic counterfactual interventions who lack agency. Using finite state machines to illustrate, I show the models that classical Frankfurt-type examples must use and why they are incongruent with leeway incompatibilist beliefs—the motivating interlocutor for classical Frankfurt-type examples. I (...)
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  7. How (Not) to Think About the Sense of 'Able' Relevant to Free Will.Simon Kittle - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    This essay is an investigation into the sense of ‘able’ relevant to free will, where free will is understood as requiring the ability to do otherwise. I argue that van Inwagen’s recent functional specification of the relevant sense of ‘able’ is flawed, and that explicating the powers involved in free will shall likely require paying detailed attention to the semantics and pragmatics of ‘can’ and ‘able’. Further, I argue that van Inwagen’s promise-level ability requirement on free will is too strong. (...)
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  8. Nihil Obstat: Lewis’s Compatibilist Account of Abilities.Helen Beebee, Maria Svedberg & Ann Whittle - 2020 - The Monist 103 (3):245-261.
    In an outline of a paper found amongst his philosophical papers and correspondence after his untimely death in 2001—“Nihil Obstat: An Analysis of Ability,” reproduced in this volume—David Lewis sketched a new compatibilist account of abilities, according to which someone is able to A if and only if there is no obstacle to their A-ing, where an obstacle is a ‘robust preventer’ of their A-ing. In this paper, we provide some background context for Lewis’s outline, a section-by-section commentary, and a (...)
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  9. The Ability to Do Otherwise and the New Dispositionalism.Romy Jaster - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    According to the New Dispositionalist’s response to the Frankfurt Cases, Jones can do otherwise because Black merely masks (or finks), but does not deprive Jones of the relevant ability. This reasoning stands in the tradition of a line of thought according to which an informed view of the truth conditions of ability attributions allows for a compatibilist stance. The promise is that once we understand how abilities work, it turns out that the ability to do otherwise is compatible with determinism, (...)
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  10. Sceptical Deliberations.Simon‐Pierre Chevarie‐Cossette - 2020 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 101 (3):383-408.
    Suppose I am a leeway sceptic: I think that, whenever I face a choice between two courses of action, I lack true alternatives. Can my practical deliberation be rational? Call this the Deliberation Question. This paper has three aims in tackling it. Its constructive aim is to provide a unified account of practical deliberation. Its corrective aim is to amend the way that philosophers have recently framed the Deliberation Question. Finally, its disputative aim is to argue that leeway sceptics cannot (...)
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  11. The Reality of Free Will.Claus Janew - 2020 - Journal of Consciousness Exploration and Research 11 (1):1-16.
    The uniqueness of each viewpoint, each point of effect, can be "overcome" only by changing the viewpoint to other viewpoints and returning. Such an alternation, which can also appear as constant change, makes up the unity of the world. The wholeness of an alternation, however, is a consciousness structure because of the special relationship between the circumscribing periphery and the infinitesimal center. This process structure unites determinacy and indeterminacy at every point also totally. We are dealing, therefore, with forms of (...)
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  12. Frankfurt Cases and 'Could Have Done Otherwise'.Leslie Allan - manuscript
    In his seminal essay, Harry Frankfurt argued that our exercise of free will and allocation of moral responsibility do not depend on us being able to do other than we did. Leslie Allan defends this moral maxim from Frankfurt's attack. Applying his character-based counterfactual conditional analysis of free acts to Frankfurt's counterexamples, Allan unpacks the confusions that lie at the heart of Frankfurt's argument. The author also explores how his 4C compatibilist theory measures up against Frankfurt’s conclusions.
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  13. What’s Wrong with the Consequence Argument: A Compatibilist Libertarian Response.Christian List - 2019 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 119 (3):253-274.
    The most prominent argument for the incompatibility of free will and determinism is Peter van Inwagen’s consequence argument. I offer a new diagnosis of what is wrong with this argument. Proponents and critics typically accept the way the argument is framed, and only disagree on whether the premisses and rules of inference are true. I suggest that the argument involves a category mistake: it conflates two different levels of description, namely, the physical level at which we describe the world from (...)
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  14. Que tipo de determinação é compatível com que tipo de liberdade? – Uma resposta a Marcelo Fischborn.Gilberto Gomes - 2019 - Filosofia Unisinos 2 (20):113-127.
    While agreeing with Fischborn’s (2018) contention that, according to one traditional definition of compatibilism, my position should be classified as that of a libertarian incompatibilist, I argue here for a different view of compatibilism. This view involves, on the one hand, local probabilistic causation of decisions (rather than universal strict determinism) and, on the other, free will conceived as involving decisions generated by a decision-making process carried out by the brain, which consciously contemplates different alternatives and could in principle have (...)
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  15. Luckily, We Are Only Responsible for What We Could Have Avoided.Philip Swenson - 2019 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 43 (1):106-118.
    This paper has two goals: (1) to defend a particular response to the problem of resultant moral luck and (2) to defend the claim that we are only responsible for what we could have avoided. Cases of overdetermination threaten to undermine the claim that we are only responsible for what we could have avoided. To deal with this issue, I will motivate a particular way of responding to the problem of resultant moral luck. I defend the view that one's degree (...)
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  16. Flickers of Freedom and Moral Luck.Carolina Sartorio - 2019 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 43 (1):93-105.
    Midwest Studies In Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  17. The Problem of Free Will and Determinism: An Abductive Approach.Kristin M. Mickelson - 2019 - Social Philosophy and Policy 36 (1):154-172.
    This essay begins by dividing the traditional problem of free will and determinism into a “correlation” problem and an “explanation” problem. I then focus on the explanation problem, and argue that a standard form of abductive (i.e. inference to the best-explanation) reasoning may be useful in solving it. To demonstrate the fruitfulness of the abductive approach, I apply it to three standard accounts of free will. While each account implies the same solution to the correlation problem, each implies a unique (...)
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  18. Moral Responsibility for Actions and Omissions: The Asymmetry Thesis Rejected.David Palmer & Yuanyuan Liu - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-13.
    There is an important contemporary debate in moral responsibility about whether the following asymmetry thesis is true: moral responsibility for actions does not require alternative possibilities but moral responsibility for omissions does. In this paper, we do two things. First, we consider and reject a recent argument against the asymmetry thesis, contending that the argument fails because it rests on a false view about the metaphysics of omissions. Second, we develop and defend a new argument against the asymmetry thesis, one (...)
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  19. Frankfurt-Type Examples, Obligation, and Responsibility.Ishtiyaque Haji - 2006 - The Journal of Ethics 10 (3):255-281.
    I examine John Martin Fischer's attempt to block an argument for the conclusion that without alternative possibilities, morally deontic judgments (judgments of moral right, wrong, and obligation) cannot be true. I then criticize a recent attempt to sustain the principle that an agent is morally blameworthy for performing an action only if this action is morally wrong. I conclude with discussing Fisher's view that even if causal determinism undermines morally deontic judgments, it still leaves room for other significant moral assessments (...)
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  20. Incommensurable Goods, Alternative Possibilities, and the Self-Refutation of the Self-Refutation of Determinism.Michael Baur - 2005 - American Journal of Jurisprudence 50 (1):165-171.
    In his paper, "Free Choice, Incommensurable Goods and the Self-Refutation of Determinism,"' Joseph Boyle seeks to show how the argument for the self-refutation of determinism - first articulated over twenty-five years ago - is an argument whose force depends on (first) a proper understanding of just what free choice is, and (secondly) a proper understanding of how free choice is a principle of moral responsibility. According to Boyle, a person can make a genuinely free choice only if he is presented (...)
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  21. Time, Leeway, and the Laws of Nature: Why Humean Compatibilists Cannot Be Eternalists.Andrei A. Buckareff - 2019 - Metaphysica 20 (1):51-71.
    Humean compatibilism combines a Humean conception of laws of nature with a strong dual-ability condition for free will that requires that agents possess the ability to decide differently when they make a free decision. On the Humean view of laws of nature, laws of nature are taken to be contingent non-governing descriptions of significant regularities that obtain in the entire history of the universe. On Humean compatibilism, agents are taken to possess dual ability when making free decisions because what the (...)
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  22. Free Will, Determinism and the Possibility of Doing Otherwise.Ewan Rodgers - 2015 - Lse Philosophy Blog.
    Can free will exist in a deterministic universe? In “Free Will, Determinism, and the Possibility of Doing Otherwise”, Christian List argues that it can.
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  23. Moral Responsibility Without General Ability.Taylor W. Cyr & Philip Swenson - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (274):22-40.
    It is widely thought that, to be morally responsible for some action or omission, an agent must have had, at the very least, the general ability to do otherwise. As we argue, however, there are counterexamples to the claim that moral responsibility requires the general ability to do otherwise. We present several cases in which agents lack the general ability to do otherwise and yet are intuitively morally responsible for what they do, and we argue that such cases raise problems (...)
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  24. Freedom of the Will: A Conditional Analysis. [REVIEW]Simon Kittle - 2013 - Disputatio 5 (37):368-374.
  25. Does Everyone Think the Ability to Do Otherwise is Necessary for Free Will and Moral Responsibility?Simon Kittle - 2019 - Philosophia 47 (4):1177-1183.
    Christopher Franklin argues that, despite appearances, everyone thinks that the ability to do otherwise is required for free will and moral responsibility. Moreover, he says that the way to decide which ability to do otherwise is required will involve settling the nature of moral responsibility. In this paper I highlight one point on which those usually called leeway theorists - i.e. those who accept the need for alternatives - agree, in contradistinction to those who deny that the ability to do (...)
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  26. Indirectly Free Actions, Libertarianism, and Resultant Moral Luck.Robert J. Hartman - 2020 - Erkenntnis 85 (6):1417-1436.
    Martin Luther affirms his theological position by saying “Here I stand. I can do no other.” Supposing that Luther’s claim is true, he lacks alternative possibilities at the moment of choice. Even so, many libertarians have the intuition that he is morally responsible for his action. One way to make sense of this intuition is to assert that Luther’s action is indirectly free, because his action inherits its freedom and moral responsibility from earlier actions when he had alternative possibilities and (...)
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  27. Agents’ Abilities.Romy Jaster - 2020 - Berlin, New York: De Gruyter.
    In the book, I provide an account of what it is for an agent to have an ability. According to the Success View, abilities are all about success across possible situations. In developing and applying the view, the book elucidates the relation between abilities on the one hand and possibility, counterfactuals, and dispositions on the other; it sheds light on the distinction between general and specific abilities; it offers an understanding of degrees of abilities; it explains which role intentions and (...)
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  28. Kant, Ought Implies Can, the Principle of Alternate Possibilities, and Happiness.Samuel Kahn - 2018 - Lexington Books.
    This book examines three issues: the principle of ought implies can ; the principle of alternate possibilities ; and Kant’s views on the duty to promote one’s own happiness. It argues that although Kant was wrong to deny such a duty, the part of his denial that rests on a conception of duty incorporating both OIC and PAP is sound.
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  29. When is an Alternative Possibility Robust?Simon Kittle - 2019 - European Journal of Philosophy 27 (1):199-210.
    According to some, free will requires alternative possibilities. But not any old alternative possibility will do. Sometimes, being able to bring about an alternative does not bestow any control on an agent. In order to bestow control, and so be directly relevant qua alternative to grounding the agent's moral responsibility, alternatives need to be robust. Here, I investigate the nature of robust alternatives. I argue that Derk Pereboom's latest robustness criterion is too strong, and I suggest a different criterion based (...)
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  30. A Modest Classical Compatibilism.Matthew J. Hart - 2017 - Disputatio (45):265–285.
    The advent of Frankfurt-style counterexamples in the early 1970s posed a problem not merely for incompatibilists, but for compatibilists also. At that time compatibilists too were concerned to hold that the presence of alternative possibilities was necessary for moral responsibility. Such a classical compatibilism, I argue in this paper, should not have been left behind. I propose that we can use a Kratzer-style semantics of ‘can’ to model ‘could have done otherwise’ statements in such a way that the truth of (...)
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  31. A Minimal Libertarianism: Free Will and the Promise of Reduction.Christopher Evan Franklin - 2018 - New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
    In this book, Christopher Evan Franklin develops and defends a novel version of event-causal libertarianism. This view is a combination of libertarianism--the view that humans sometimes act freely and that those actions are the causal upshots of nondeterministic processes--and agency reductionism--the view that the causal role of the agent in exercises of free will is exhausted by the causal role of mental states and events (e.g., desires and beliefs) involving the agent. Franklin boldly counteracts a dominant theory that has similar (...)
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  32. La Responsabilité Pour Ce Qui Est Inévitable.Cyrille Michon - 2018 - Acta Philosophica 27 (1):27-44.
    I argue that one can be responsible for a certain state of affairs, one has brought about, or one has let happen, only if one could have avoided it, by omitting or by performing a certain action. I limit my argument to the consequences of actions and omissions, and to the conditional ability of avoiding the consequences by an alternative behaviour. Even within those limits, the argument challenges the Causal Conception of Moral Responsibility and the strategy mounted by Frankfurt against (...)
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  33. Blameworthiness and Buffered Alternatives.Justin A. Capes - 2016 - American Philosophical Quarterly 53 (3):269-280.
    Frankfurt cases are designed to be counterexamples to the principle of alternative possibilities, a version of which states that an agent is blameworthy for what she did only if there was an alternative course of action available to her at the time, the availability of which is relevant per se to an explanation of why the agent is blameworthy for her action. In this article, I argue that the buffer cases, which are among the most promising and influential Frankfurt cases (...)
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  34. Does Free Will Require Alternative Possibilities?Pablo Rychter - 2017 - Disputatio 9 (45):131-146.
    In this introductory study I discuss the notion of alternative possibilities and its relation to contemporary debates on free will and moral responsibility. I focus on two issues: whether Frankfurt-style cases refute the principle of alternative possibilities, and whether alternative possibilities are relevant to grounding free will and moral responsibility. With respect to the first issue, I consider three objections to Frankfurt-syle cases: the flicker strategy, the dilemma defense, and the objection from new dispositionalism. With respect to the second issue, (...)
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  35. Actual Causes and Free Will.Carolina Sartorio - 2017 - Disputatio 9 (45):147-165.
    In this paper I reexamine the debate between two contrasting conceptions of free will: the classical model, which understands freedom in terms of alternative possibilities, and a more recent family of views that focus only on actual causes, and that were inspired by Frankfurt’s famous attack on the principle of alternative possibilities. I offer a novel argument in support of the actual-causes model, one that bypasses the popular debate about Frankfurt-style cases.
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  36. Free Will and Open Alternatives.Carlos J. Moya - 2017 - Disputatio 9 (45):167-191.
    In her recent book Causation and Free Will, Carolina Sartorio develops a distinctive version of an actual-sequence account of free will, according to which, when agents choose and act freely, their freedom is exclusively grounded in, and supervenes on, the actual causal history of such choices or actions. Against this proposal, I argue for an alternative- possibilities account, according to which agents’ freedom is partly grounded in their ability to choose or act otherwise. Actual-sequence accounts of freedom are motivated by (...)
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  37. Review : Bahro's Alternative: Book Review Rudolf Bahro: The Alternative in Eastern Europe. New York, NLB, 1978. 463 Pp. Transl. By David Fernbach From the German Original: Die Alternative. Zur Kritik des Real Ex Istierenden Sozialismus. Europaische Verladsanstalt, 1977, 543 Pp.Michael Gagern - 1980 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 7 (1):100-113.
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  38. Review Essay : Dimensions of Morality: Lutz Wingert, Gemeinsinn Und Moral: Grundzüge Einer Intersubjektivistischen Moralkonzeption (Frankfurt Am Main: Suhrkamp, 1993).Logi Gunnarsson - 1997 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 23 (1):125-130.
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  39. On Flew’s Compatibilism and His Objections to Theistic Libertarianism.Hakan Gundogdu - 2015 - Kaygı Uludağ University Faculty of Arts and Sciences Journal of Philosophy 25:115-142.
    Flew strongly defends a compatibilist thesis in the free will debate before going on to totally object to theistic libertarianism. His objections basically rely on his compatibilism embracing the notion of agent causation, which is not very common in compatibilist theses. Since he is a strong proponent of ordinary language philosophy, he also holds that linguistic analyses can certainly solve the free will problem as well as many other problems of philosophy. In doing so, he first uses the paradigm cases (...)
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  40. Frankfurt-Style Cases and the Explanation Condition for Moral Responsibility: A Reply to Swenson.Florian Cova - 2017 - Acta Analytica 32 (4):427-446.
    Frankfurt-style cases are supposed to constitute counter-examples to the principle of alternate possibilities, for they are cases in which we have the intuition that an agent is morally responsible for his action, even though he could not have done otherwise. In a recent paper, Swenson rejects this conclusion, on the basis of a comparison between standard FSCs, which typically feature actions, and similar cases involving omissions. Because the absence of alternate possibilities seems to preclude moral responsibility in the cases of (...)
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  41. Semicompatibilism: No Ability to Do Otherwise Required.Taylor W. Cyr - 2017 - Philosophical Explorations 20 (3):308-321.
    In this paper, I argue that it is open to semicompatibilists to maintain that no ability to do otherwise is required for moral responsibility. This is significant for two reasons. First, it undermines Christopher Evan Franklin’s recent claim that everyone thinks that an ability to do otherwise is necessary for free will and moral responsibility. Second, it reveals an important difference between John Martin Fischer’s semicompatibilism and Kadri Vihvelin’s version of classical compatibilism, which shows that the dispute between them is (...)
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  42. Divine Freedom.Frances Howard-Snyder - 2017 - Topoi 36 (4):651-656.
    In “Divine Freedom,” I argue that morally significant incompatibilist freedom is a great good. So God possesses morally incompatibilist freedom. So, God can do wrong or at least can do worse than the best action He can do. So, God is not essentially morally perfect. After careful consideration of numerous objections, I conclude that this argument is undefeated.
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  43. Counterfactuals of Freedom and the Luck Objection to Libertarianism.Robert J. Hartman - 2017 - Journal of Philosophical Research 42 (1):301-312.
    Peter van Inwagen famously offers a version of the luck objection to libertarianism called the ‘Rollback Argument.’ It involves a thought experiment in which God repeatedly rolls time backward to provide an agent with many opportunities to act in the same circumstance. Because the agent has the kind of freedom that affords her alternative possibilities at the moment of choice, she performs different actions in some of these opportunities. The upshot is that whichever action she performs in the actual-sequence is (...)
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